If you’ve read through our driveway cost guides then you will already know that asphalt and concrete are the two mid-priced driveway options between expensive driveway pavers and gravel, the cheapest driveway option. This factor alone makes them the two most popular driveway materials…but how do you choose between them? Is asphalt cheaper than concrete? Yes, but that’s just one factor to consider, along with the appearance you prefer, your climate, and driveway durability.
In this RenoCompare report we lay out the differences between an asphalt and a concrete driveway, comparing the two so you can decide which is the right fit for you.
WHAT IS ASPHALT?
Asphalt is a popular choice for driveways all over the US. It is made from a mixture of aggregate stone and sand and a petroleum-based material. It is easy to repair and more cost-effective than concrete. Most roads in the US are asphalt.
WHAT IS CONCRETE?
Concrete is a composite material. The mix is water, aggregate (rock, sand, or gravel) and Portland cement. The water and aggregate bind with powdered cement to create concrete. Concrete driveways can be tinted with color or acid-stained to produce the look of granite. The surface can be textured or stamped to create the look of pavers. In short, a wide range of appealing “looks” are possible with concrete.
Here are the top considerations when deciding between these two popular driveway types.
Professional installation: Here are brief overviews for the process of installing standard concrete and asphalt drives.
- For a new driveway of either type, the soil is excavated to a depth of up to 12 inches to form the driveway bed.
- The bed is graded to ensure that it gently slopes away from the house – toward the road or ditch.
- For both, 4 to 8 inches of aggregate is installed. The specific choice of materials is based on soil conditions. Gravel is the top choice for concrete, but the mix for either can include sand, small-to-medium stone, gravel or other locally available aggregate. This aggregate base is compacted once or twice during the installation.
- Note: When an old driveway is removed, the aggregate base beneath it can often be used, though it might be built up and compacted again if there’s been settling or wash-out.
- For asphalt, the material is laid down hot in two layers with a thin, oily layer of binder between them. Each layer is smoothed and compacted with a heavy rolling machine. Technique varies slightly among contractors. Asphalt should be sealed, aka sealcoated, in 6-12 months and then again every 2-5 years as needed.
- For concrete, the material is poured, finished to a smooth or slightly textured surface and expansion joints are installed. Wait 4-6 weeks for the concrete to fully cure, and then it can be acid-stained and sealed or simply sealed.
How long does driveway installation take? For either type, expect the work to take 1-3 days depending on the size of the driveway, it’s complexity and weather conditions.
WHEN CAN I DRIVE ON THE DRIVEWAY?
Concrete driveways should be given 7 days before they are driven on with a passenger vehicle, though you can walk on it after a couple days. The full curing process takes about a month – give your concrete driveway 30 days before heavy trucks or equipment are allowed on it.
Asphalt driveways can be driven on after 3 days. But here’s a pro tip – Don’t park on the asphalt for 14 days, enough time for it to fully harden.
Driveway cost – concrete vs asphalt: The difference between asphalt and concrete driveway cost is around $3 per square foot.
These summary driveway costs allow you compare prices. Costs vary based on a few common factors. Prices are higher when the property is wooded vs open, a new aggregate base is required, a large amount of aggregate is used because of poor soil conditions and the source of materials is distant vs near to the home.
Costs are per square foot.
- New standard asphalt driveway cost: $4.00 – $7.50 with an average right around $6.00.
- Resurfaced standard asphalt driveway cost: $2.00-$3.40.
- Recycled asphalt driveway cost: $1.95 to $4.25
- Asphalt driveway stamping cost (in addition to the driveway installation/resurfacing cost): $2.75-$4.25
- New concrete driveway cost: $6.85 – $10.50.
- Acid staining a concrete driveway: $2.75 – $4.50
DRIVEWAY REPAIR AND COST
Here are the types of driveways we’ve discussed with an overview of common repairs and their costs.
- Standard, resurfaced and recycled asphalt driveway repairs and costs: If cracks or settling appear in a new or newly resurfaced driveway in the first few years, the repairs should be made by the installer at no cost to you. Seal coating an asphalt driveway costs $0.40 to $0.70 per square foot when the surface is in good condition and $1.00 to $1.50 per square foot when cracks need to be filled. If repair estimates go higher for asphalt in poor condition, resurfacing might be a better choice. Replacing sections of asphalt costs $5 to $8 per square foot due to the higher costs of cutting out bad material, bringing in a crew for just a small area of work and doing more of the installation by hand.
- New concrete driveway repairs and costs: As with asphalt, any required repairs in the first few years should be done by the installer at no charge. The cost to seal a concrete driveway is $1.25 to $2.50 per square foot depending on the quality of the sealer. Filling and caulking cracks in concrete costs up to $10 per linear foot depending on the material used to make the repair. Replacing sections of a concrete driveway costs $7 to $12 per square foot depending on the size of the area.
RESURFACING AN ASPHALT DRIVEWAY
Concrete can’t be resurfaced; the only option is to remove it at a cost of $6 to $8 per square foot before installing a new 4 inches of reinforced concrete for $1.85-$2.25 per square foot.
One of the benefits of asphalt, both standard and recycled, is that it can be resurfaced at least once. Minor cracks in the existing surface are repaired, and settled areas are replaced or filled. Then, a fresh surface 1-1.5 inches thick is installed. Asphalt resurfacing cost is $2.00-$3.40 per square foot.
CONTRACTORS: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A DRIVEWAY INSTALLER
When you get driveway estimates, choose an installer with these traits:
- A local reputation for quality work and good customer service
- A crew with experience doing the specific type of work being completed
- A commitment to get the proper permit and inspection, if required in your community
- Licensed and insured
- Written estimates with a guaranteed price
- A warranty on materials and labor
Concrete requires less maintenance than asphalt. Asphalt driveways need to be resealed every 3 to 5 years. This will prolong the longevity of your asphalt driveway. Asphalt hides oil and gas stains pretty well. But they are almost impossible to totally remove because the oil and gas seep into the material.
Concrete can be sealed, but it is not required and often is not done by homeowners. If there is an oil stain or gas spot on the driveway, then a degreaser should be used on the concrete. Stains are easier to remove if the concrete has been sealed.
The average lifespan of an asphalt driveway is 20 to 40 years. The better it is maintained, the longer it will last. In contrast, a concrete driveway can be expected to last up to 50 with proper maintenance.
Concrete and asphalt can both be constructed of recycled materials, so that makes them relatively good for our environment. Neither are very green, but concrete has a slight edge. After all, asphalt is a petroleum-based material. And when the climate is hot and sunny, oil evaporates out of the material and into the air.
The good news is that both can be recycled. The material is crushed and mainly used in new road construction.
Asphalt driveways have pros and cons here. The material can become hot and soft in warm climates. Problems include tire marks, holes from bike kickstands and a really hot surface if walked on barefoot.
The plus side is that asphalt handles the freeze and thaw conditions of cold climates better than concrete.
Concrete driveways do not get nearly as hot as asphalt driveways, so they tend to be a better option in warm climates.
In cold climates, concrete is susceptible to damage from salt and other ice melters. Also, concrete driveways can crack due to moisture freezing in the concrete. Water penetrates the concrete surface.
In winter, it freezes and expands, causing tiny cracks in the material. Then it thaws, freezes again, and produces more cracks. This is called spalling. Asphalt does not have the same cracking issues as concrete.
Your climate is the first factor to consider when choosing an asphalt vs concrete driveway.
Where you have either option, then consider your budget. Asphalt costs less than concrete.
What about appearance? An asphalt drive is very handsome when maintained and sealed, but over time, low spots caused by settling and scaling of the coating reduce its good looks.
Concrete will crack with time, but even with a few minor cracks, it has a more robust and pricey appearance.
Additionally, with concrete coloring, staining and stamping, you have many more appearance options.